Biden to host Pacific Island leaders next week

US President Joe Biden will host the leaders of Pacific Island nations at the White House on Monday, his spokeswoman said, as Washington tries to counter Chinese influence in the region.

Biden will "reaffirm the US commitment to our shared regional priorities," including climate change, economic growth and countering illegal fishing, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Tuesday.

The meeting comes four months after Biden was forced to scrap a historic visit to a summit of the Pacific Island Forum in Papua New Guinea, due to talks to avoid a US debt default.

Biden hosted his first summit with the forum — an 18-member bloc of mostly small states scattered across a huge swath of ocean — last year at the White House.

The South Pacific was seen as a relative diplomatic backwater after World War II, but it is an increasingly important arena for powers to compete for commercial, political and military influence.

The Biden administration has particularly been pushing to boost its presence there against a rising China, which is itself keen to get a strategic toe-hold in the South Pacific.

During this year's meeting, Biden will hear from leaders on "how we can increase cooperation to address the mounting challenges of our time," Jean-Pierre said.

As well as being at the center of a superpower tussle, the region is also badly affected by rising sea levels due to climate change.

Biden told the UN General Assembly earlier Tuesday that he wanted to "responsibly manage the competition" between the United States and China "so it does not tip into conflict."

Daily Tribune